One year ago today, we took in a scrawny, freezing little stray cat.
We had first seen it one November night in the vacant lot next door where we threw stale bread seasoned with lard and peanut butter for the birds and squirrels. The starving kitty was eating the bread voraciously. We didn't get a good look at it but assumed it was a feral tomcat.
Since we will feed any animal that comes past our door, we started putting food out every evening. The cat would slink onto the patio hugging the wall to stay out of our sight. If it caught a glimpse of us, it fled in terror. It took several months before it became accustomed to us handing the warm bowl of food out on the bitter cold nights.
By the end of January, it had tamed down enough that we could reach out to pet it. It was then that we could see how bad it looked. It's fur was matted all over with cockleburs. The tail was almost hairless from all the burrs it had pulled out. It slowly became more trusting and would touch even noses with our three very curious resident cats standing inside the patio door.
Then, on February 18th, the little cat showed up during the day for the first time. It was extremely cold and windy. I put out the warm food and the kitty gobbled it up. But then, it just stood there on the other side of the door looking up at us. Waiting. The moment had arrived--it clearly had decided it wanted a warm home. My housemate slid open the patio door and scooped the kitty up with a big gust of wind behind it and brought it inside. The patio door slid closed behind them and then we had four cats.
The poor thing was quite stressed and hid under a bed overnight. We left it alone to adapt to the smells and sounds of our house. Surprisingly, the other cats kept their distance as well. I kept sweet-talking the kitty as I had always done when putting out food to reassure it. By the next evening it came out into the living room where we were watching TV and the little darling went back and forth between us purring it's head off and loving us up! It was so heartwarming and rewarding!
We cut out most of the cockleburs and took it to the vet for a checkup. We were surprised to learn she was a spayed female of about two years and in good health. After treatment for fleas and worms (and a shave of additional cockleburs) she was officially Gracie, our new cat.
In the year since we she came to live with us, she has gone from 8 to 11 pounds. The scraggly coat she once had is now a beautiful puffball of luxurious fur.
I now own four of the loveliest fur coats around!